Okay, our seedlings are growing and the weather is improving and we nearly have to tie our hands behind our backs to keep us from digging the ground to plant them. It seems this year, after such a crazy , long winter, we are all so ready to get in the garden. We envy our friends in the South and the far West because they are pretty much in the clear to plant. Here, we impatiently wait.
What are we waiting for? A few things need to be in place before it is safe to transplant tender seedlings to the great outdoors!
Hold your planting horses!
Our seedlings are like “green” children to us. We care deeply for each one. Plant nuts! Timing is everything when it comes to gardening. If you take some careful steps the journey for plants from indoors to the garden can be quite easy. Here’s what we do to insure successful transplanting.
- Become a weather watcher. Familiarize yourself with the last frost date in your zone. Use this date as a starting point for choosing when to transplant your seedlings. Weather is a fickle thing.
- Why watch the weather? It’s important to know about the ground temperature and the air temps–particularly the night temps. A sunny 70 degree day is great. But, when it’s followed by a 30 degree night it can mean disaster for tender plants. Our Twitter friend, @HandyHelen gave us a cute guide for knowing when the temps are right for planting in the ground. She says: 5 days at 55. We think that sounds good–if you have 5 days and nights with the lowest temp of 55 then it’s safe to plant. This of course comes with the caveat that no unusual cold fronts are forecasted. You may choose for the soil to be slightly warmer.
- Watch soil temperatures. You can purchase a soil thermometer for this task or some local weather reports will give this information. Love those farm reports! There are different requirements in soil temps for direct-sowing seeds and transplanting seedlings.
- Seedlings MUST go through an outdoor acclimation process called “hardening off” before they can be planted in the ground. For about a week we bring our seedlings outside to enjoy the warm days and get used to the elements like wind and sun. Early in the process we protect our seedlings from harsh sunlight. Yes, we have fried a few seedlings. Mother Nature is a very good teacher.
- It is also recommended to stop fertilizing seedlings about a week before transplanting to help minimize root shock. Resume feeding once plants are in the earth!
- Make sure your soil is ready for planting–aside from amending the soil with your favorite amendments-soil is ready for planting when it crumbles easily.
- Newly transplanted seedlings should be watered well.
Truth–the best way we have learned to transplant seedlings is by doing it. We have gained knowledge through “trial and error” even after reading volumes of articles on what to do. Plants can be amazingly resilient and forgiving.
Raising our planting trowels and wishing everyone a successful planting season.
See you in the garden,
Kerrie and Carol